The period of public consultation on the issue of whether Australia should have an R18+ rating for videogames is drawing to a close. You have until February 28 to make a submission. Many Kotaku readers already have, and we're going to share them with you.
Last week we asked you to send us your submission to encourage your fellow Kotaku readers to have their say as well. We said we'd publish your closing 250-word comments. So for the rest of the week we'll be highlighting some of the best in individual posts.
This impressively thorough submission comes from Mike Cooper, who writes:
By campaigning against the introduction of an R18+ video games rating, the Australian government has effectively made the decision that its citizens are not capable of avoiding inappropriate content and that should they be exposed to this content, it would have dramatically detrimental effects to the general population. This paper will argue that the introduction of an R18+ rating will not only prove this statement wrong, it will prove to be beneficial to gamers and non-gamers alike.
The primary argument against the introduction of the R18+ rating relates to the violent effects that extreme content will have on minors. In a recent Harvard study, it has been suggested that young boys (13-14) who play Mature-rated (17+) games on a regular basis are statistically more likely to experience certain childhood problems such as fighting, poor grades or destructive behaviour. It is also noteworthy that their conclusions also state that there were observed “creative, social and emotional benefits from game play, even games with violent content, which were used by many children to relieve stress and get out anger” (Kutner, Olsen 2007). There is no doubt that many titles are rated MA15+ in Australia when in other countries they are given 17+ or 18+, for example House of the Dead: Overkill which is rated 18+ in the UK and EU and 17+ in the US. In accordance with the findings observed by Kutner and Olsen, if these titles were rated appropriately, restricted access to these games would see a decrease in the aforementioned problems of fighting, poor grades and destructive behaviour in Australian young boys.
In a recent statement from the South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, he claims that the introduction of an R18+ rating would be inefficient in keeping those games away from minors as once they enter the household through adult hands, they will pass to children easily (Atkinson, 2009). However according the Interactive Australia 09 study conducted at Bond University, it is found that “92% of parents say that they are aware of the games that are played in their homes.” (Brand, Borchard & Holmes 2009) If in fact parents are highly aware of the potentially violent games their children play, then the implication brought forth from Michael Atkinson’s statement is that parents will willingly deliver content deemed inappropriate to their children and are incapable of making informed decisions about censorship within their own household.
The argument that a surge in violent behaviour is apparent with new media is a dated argument, it has been apparent with radio, movies and television. These claims have failed to materialize in each case and what has been concluded is that “a new medium with mass appeal, and with a technology best understood by the young, such as CD-ROM games which use interactive technology, almost invariably attracts a desire for adult or government control” (Springhall 1999). The opposing groups are those that do not understand or do not spend time with these mediums and thus are afraid of any unforeseen consequences which once again have not materialised in previous cases.
Aside from claims of violence, when comparing the effects on participants in comparison to other media, several sources have claimed that the interactive nature of computer games increases the potential for detrimental impact on a player, in the discussion paper the argument stands that “Computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players, particularly, particularly their participation in violent and aggressive content.” Conversely however studies have found that young boys play M-rated games to help them “get anger out (43.2% of study participants), forget their problems (47.8%) or help them relax (61.9%)” (Olson 2007) and can even “serve particular needs of adolescent boys with regard to aggression and socialization”, and can be considered a healthy substitute for other “rough-and-tumble play” (Olson, Kutner & Warner 2009)
Furthermore, concerns over immersion exist with potential claims that it could “blur players’ perceptions of the boundaries between fantasy and reality” (Calvert & Tan 1994). However studies investigating player’s illusion of realism within game worlds have found that “players understand they are playing a game. Their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality prevents them from emulating video game violence in real life.” (Malliet 2006)
The evidence is clear, concerns of violence are not unfounded, but research has shown that it is absolutely manageable and is not a health concern. The Australian population is fully capable of making their own informed decisions; this includes parents who are able to determine what content is appropriate for their own children. By providing the country with an updated rating system, it is clear that Australian citizens, even non-gamers will be more informed as to their decisions.
Brand J, Borchard, J & Holmes, K (2009) Interactive Australia 2009, Retrieved from http://www.igea.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/IA9-Interactive-Australia-2009-Full-Report.pdf
Malliet, S (2006) "An Exploration of Adolescents' Perceptions of Videogame Realism," Learning Media and Technology
Kutner, L & Olson, C (2008) Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games, New York
Springhall, J (1999) Youth, Popular Culture & Moral Panics: Penny Gaffs to Gangsta-Rap 1830-1996
Atkinson, M (2009) Atkinson: Real Life Issues More Important than “Imaginary Worlds” retrieved from http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/11/16/atkinson-real-life-issues-more-important-quotimaginary-worldsquot
Olson, S (2007) Factors Correlated with Violent Video Game Use by Adolescent Boys and Girls, Journal of Adolescent Health, 41, pp77-83
Calvert, S & Tan, S (1994) Impact of virtual reality on young adults’ physiological arousal and aggressive thoughts: Interaction versus observation. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15, pp125-139
Olson, C, Kutner, L & Warner D (2008) The role of Violent Video Game Content in Adolescent Development: Boys’ Perspectives, Journal of Adolescent Research, 23, pp55-75
In case you’re yet to state your case, here’s how to do it.